Focus on the fruits of Holy Communion
How do we prepare young people to effectively receive the Eucharist? Whether you are preparing children to receive the Eucharist for the first time or prepping for a Mass many years later, helping them meditate on the mystery of the sacrament is an awe-inspiring responsibility. The excitement of participating in Communion can quickly fade into just another part of Mass. It’s easy for people both young and old to merely go through the motions, not thinking much about the significance of what they receive at Mass or how the Lord is working within their hearts.
Consider using these teaching methods to focus on each of the fruits of Holy Communion, which are described in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (see CCC, 1391-1401).
The Eucharist augments our union with Christ
Help your students reflect on their relationship with Christ. Give them the opportunity to
reminisce about their memories of Jesus’ presence in their lives. On a sheet of paper, have them create a timeline of these memories or have them draw pictures for a paper photo album depicting memorable moments of their relationship with Christ. Assure the students that this is the very same Jesus they will receive and be united with in the sacrament of the Eucharist. Pray with them that this unity will be strengthened.
The Eucharist separates us from sin
To help prepare for Mass, give the students some time to perform a mini-examination of conscience. I always find myself mentally scrambling to think of sins between the time the priest says “Let’s call to mind our sins” and “Lord have mercy” during the Penitential Rite. A pre-Mass examination of conscience can make this prayer even more fruitful.
You can use the Ten Commandments, Beatitudes, or Works of Mercy as guides. Begin each
reflective sentence with “Have I _____?” For example, “Have I [honored my mother and father]?” or “Have I [fed the hungry]?” Or simply ask the students to call to mind the times they have failed to love God or love their neighbor. End this examination of conscience with a prayer asking God to extend his mercy and transform their hearts through the reception of the Eucharist.
The unity of the Mystical Body: the Eucharist makes the Church
The Mystical Body of Christ is so much bigger than we can imagine. It extends beyond the members of the Catholic Church living today and includes the saints in heaven, and the souls in purgatory.
Call to mind this reality through prayer with the students. Ask them to call upon one of the saints to pray for a special intention. Ask them to pray for someone they know who has died so that they may join with the saints in heavenly unity with Christ. Ask them to pray for someone they know (maybe a family member or friend) and for someone in the Church that they do not know personally (the pope or local bishop, for example). You might have younger children draw pictures of these many people on a piece of paper to illustrate the Mystical Body of Christ.
The Eucharist commits us to the poor Read the Gospel account of Jesus feeding the crowds in John 6:1-14. Ask your students to meditate on what it would have been like to be the boy in the story. His small amount of food was multiplied to feed a throng people.
Invite them to consider donating some food to the parish food pantry or the St. Vincent de Paul Society — to be multiplied by Christ in feeding the poor through their parish giving programs.
The Eucharist helps bring about the unity of Christians
Your students may not be aware of the fact that Protestant churches do not profess Christ’s true presence in the Eucharist. While they may not participate in the Eucharist, we are united in the common goal of reaching unity with Christ. As the Catechism says, “the more painful the experience of the divisions in the Church … the more urgent are our prayers to the Lord that the time of complete unity among all who believe in him may return” (CCC, 1398). Therefore, lead your students in a prayer for Christian unity.
Jared Dees is the founder of TheReligionTeacher.com and author of Christ in the Classroom: Lesson Planning for the Heart and Mind.
This article was originally published in Catechist magazine, November 2019.